Even in sunny Southern California, it is (finally) that time of year. The temperature has dropped and we even had a rainstorm blow through a few nights ago—truly unheard of around here. Though I do love a tall, icy drink in the summer, the cold months are my favorite time for drinking. Many classic cocktails seem to be meant for sipping on a bracingly cold night, and since I find myself in the kitchen more often this time of year, there are a great array of ingredients and flavors that can be introduced to the winter bar repertoire.
I also look for drinks that use classic fall and winter flavors, such as this drink by Tad Carducci for Apothecary in Philadelphia. It appeared in last year’s holiday issue of Imbibe (this year’s holiday issue just hit the stands), and he likens its pairing abilities to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, pulling “herbal and sweet elements from food.” The list of ingredients could be used as a glaze for ham, if you’re into that sort of thing, but that goes to show just how well this works for food pairing this time of year.
1½ oz white rhum agricole
½ oz Grand Marnier
½ oz agave nectar
3 oz fresh yellow grapefruit juice
4 medium-sized leaves fresh sage
Muddle the sage leaves in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add all remaining ingredients and ice; shake well for about ten seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with sage-infused pineapple. (You may want to double strain to remove any small bits of sage.)
To make sage-infused pineapple: Cut a fresh pineapple into medium dice and chiffonade 6-8 sage leaves. Combine both in a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for two hours, shaking or stirring occasionally.
So, a few notes before we begin: when the directions say “muddle,” that means to use your muddler to lightly smash and bruise the leaves to release some of their oils. It does not mean to beat the hell out of them, resulting in a mushy green pulp of torn leaves and oozing sage juice. If you go too crazy while muddling, you are going to wind up with a drink that tastes like sage and nothing else. That said, this drink has a very pleasant flavor that is at turns earthy, citrusy, tart and sweet. The only adjustment I would suggest is to add a little dash of spice syrup to supply a bit of depth and bring the herbal qualities of the sage into better balance with the rest of the drink. I’d also be tempted to try this with pineapple juice in place of the grapefruit, just for kicks.